Dad’s Army – the sheer mention of a movie remake of a once-classic TV series was enough to strike fear into the hearts of the nation. Probably more so than the threat of another World War…
I never got into the TV series as it was rather past my time, even though many of an older age than myself designated it a classic, but this is a film that’s aimed at all ages, so surely it should attempt to work for everyone?
Kudos to the production team, at least, that they didn’t go the lazy American route of dropping in an f-word to secure a 12-cert rating. It could still have been seen by children in the cinemas, but a PG in the US (for non-CGI kids films) are often seen as box-office death, hence why a lot of them have tipped the balance into PG-13 territory since the early ’80s.
The plot, such as it is, is that the time and place is England, 1944. A German spy’s plans to use a homing pigeon are rather thwarted in some semi-amusing opening credits, set to Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries (a sole pigeon’s daring flight can’t quite measure up to Kilgore’s helicopter assault in Apocalypse Now, but anyway…). With the off-screen fuhrer in need of a new fifth columnist, they send in someone posing as a different sort of columnist – one that writes for magazines: cue Catherine Zeta-Jones as Rose Winters (don’t worry, we’re told this about 20 minutes in, so I’m not dropping a huge last minute spoiler!)
Bringing on the Home Guard, they’re out on manoeuvres and seeking the enemy… although, they’re they’re inept and they get chased by a bull… or rather, Toby Jones does, as the rest of them have naffed off. For a minute, I thought the bull might catch up with him and do to Captain Mainwaring what the bear did to Leonardo DiCaprio in The Revenant, but this is a PG, of course. There’s a hint towards modern day issues, as they might get cancelled as an outfit, such is 1940s austerity.
There’s a slightly amusing scene after the bull incident where Toby Jones has his arms in lengthways splits, causing trouble in getting about, and Jones, himself, does a passable impression of Arthur Lowe in the lead role, but Bill Nighy can only do Bill Nighy, Tom Courtenay is Tom Courtenay, and that’s how it goes with most of the rest of the cast. Even CZJ is reasonable and plays her part convincingly, but… it’s just not funny. You can see where they’re going with some of the jokes – and 5-year-olds might get something out of these, but not many others.
Dad’s Army 2016 is as ill-advised a return to an established form, in trying to reboot them, as 1992’s Carry On Columbus. Ian Lavender, the original Private Pike, gets a cameo, and we get to see Mrs Mainwaring (Felicity Montagu) for the first time ever, since she was only ever referred to as an off-camera character in the TV series. However, it feels like the production team don’t have the courage of their own convictions when, during the opening credits, they feel the need to tell us which actor’s playing which part. Okay, I’ve never seen much of the TV series, but even still, most of the names mean little to me. Surely the fans would know? Then again, would they be watching this remake?
Catchphrase-wise, we get a “Stupid boy!” from Mainwaring to Pike, but no “Don’t tell him, Pike!” Later, there’s a crowbarred-in “They don’t like it up ’em!”, with no reference to anything Jones is talking about and the ensuing situation indicating that the complete opposite would be the correct response, while a bit further on, Frazer moans “We’re doomed!” Very good, scriptwriters. I’m amazed you weren’t in the running for Best Film at the Oscars…
The original theme tune brings the film to a close, while the subsequent credits feature a blooper towards the end where they stay in character, but Michael Gambon‘s mobile goes off, as well as a few outtakes as the cast corpse when delivering lines. Elsewhere in the movie, the 1920s music makes me think I’m watching a Tom & Jerry cartoon.
So, who do you think you are kidding, Mr Parker? That’s the director, Oliver Parker, was also responsible for Johnny English Reborn, both recent St Trinian’s movies, and the intriguingly-titled, I Really Hate My Job. I wonder if he will, after this?
Give this a miss unless you’ve got a die-hard hankering for ANYTHING Dad’s Army-related. For me, not only did I find it boring, but it was so bad, it gave me a headache.
Dad’s Army? Dud’s Army, morelike.
The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 theatrical ratio (bit of an odd choice for a film based on a TV series which only ever existed in 4:3 format), but it looks crisp and sharp, evoking the period without any issues, and for the record, I’m watching on a Panasonic 50″ Plasma screen with a Samsung BDP1500 player.
Audio-wise, it’s not a SFX movie, but there’s some neat directional sound during a shoot-out.
Alas, when it comes to the extras, the two featurettes are more like an afterthought:
- Legacy (2:14): Jimmy Perry and the cast, where everyone blows smoke up each others’ backsides.
- Women of Walmington (1:58): which… er… looks at the female equivalent of the Home Guard.
There are just a bog-standard 12 chapters to the film, there are subtitles in English only and the menu is a bizarre state of affairs, as it just features a static cast image and a piece of music that has NOTHING to do with the film, nor is it even in keeping. It sounds like some terrible ’70s spy pastiche music. Not even Shazam could figure out what it is!
In addition, there’s also Dad’s Army: The Complete TV Series on DVD.
Running time: 100 minutes
Studio: Universal Pictures
Released: June 13th 2016
Picture: 1080p High Definition
Sound: DTS HD Master Audio 5.1, DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
Disc Format: BD50
Director: Oliver Parker
Producer: Damian Jones
Screenplay: Hamish McColl (based on the original series by David Croft and Jimmy Perry)
Music: Charlie Mole
George Mainwaring: Toby Jones
Rose Winters: Catherine Zeta-Jones
Frank Pike: Blake Harrison
Walker: Daniel Mays
Godfrey: Michael Gambon
Arthur Wilson: Bill Nighy
Frazer: Bill Paterson
Jones: Tom Courtenay
Farmer: Nigel Launder
Daphne: Emily Atack
Canaris: Oliver Tobias
Keunzer: Michael Heath
Lambrecht: Phil Robertson
Elizabeth Mainwaring: Felicity Montagu
Mrs. Todd: Jacqueline Tong
Vicar: Frank Williams
Colonel Theakes: Mark Gatiss
Vera: Holli Dempsey
Mavis Pike: Sarah Lancashire
Mrs. Fox: Alison Steadman
Hodges: Martin Savage
Dolly: Julia Foster
Cissy: Annette Crosbie
Brigadier Pritchard: Ian Lavender
Major Cunningham: Mark Tandy
Lundt: Russell Balough
Captian Meeks: Andrew Havill
The Pigeon: Heinz
The Bull: Bertie
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.